Finding the Groove Again

“Write every day” is a common mantra you’ll hear from writers. Writing every day will give you practice. If you’re honest as you evaluate your writing and work with people who will give you honest feedback, you’ll grow as a writer. Writing every day keeps you in the groove. The more you do it, the easier writing becomes. However, I understand quite well how life can throw challenges to this ideal in a person’s path.

This past year is a case in point. It’s actually been rather busy on several writing-related fronts. I edited the novels Hybrid and Hybrid: Forced Vengeance for Greg Ballan. I edited the short story collection The Way-Out Wild West by Lyn McConchie. I completed re-editing my novel Heirs of the New Earth and brought out new editions of my first three Clockwork Legion novels. The fourth one is in process now. I’ve also been working on a project I can’t discuss yet. Of course, I’ve been doing all this while operating telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory. What I haven’t done as much as I’d like is write new fiction.

This is not to say that I’ve eschewed writing altogether during this period. I’ve kept this blog going. Typically that means composing a roughly 500-word post twice a week. That has helped a great deal because it helps me think about topics and gives me practice composing articles. I’ve also written and revised scenes as part of my editorial work and the secret project I alluded to. Even if you can’t write every day, I highly recommend making some time to write each week, even if it doesn’t contribute to a project. Even journaling can help.

Daniel, the Vampire Astronomer – illustration by Chaz Kemp

I think the hardest part for me getting back into the writing groove is that I find it far too easy to be distracted by tasks such as work around the house and yard, emails, and even books to read. The first thing I did to get back into the groove was decide what story I wanted to write. In effect, this story is something of a warm-up for the vampire novel I outlined. What’s more, I have some markets in mind for the new story. Without giving too much away, I’d realized that the vampire Daniel in Vampires of the Scarlet Order was very much defined by being a vampire and an astronomer for over a century. I wanted to know more about who he was before he became either a vampire or an astronomer. Once I defined the idea, I spent some time doing some research into schools he might have attended and what was going on in the world at the time of the story, which I planned to set in 1899, and how those events might impact his life. I then went for a walk. I find walks provide a great opportunity to clear my head and I am often able to put my research together with my character and come up with a story.

Once I returned from the walk, I gave myself permission to tune out the world. I turned off my email, turned off my phone’s sound, logged out of Facebook messenger, closed the door to my writing office and told myself I would stay in place until I wrote 500 words. I did that within half an hour but once the story started flowing, I wanted to write more. I got a drink (hydration is important!) and went back to work. Next thing I knew, I had almost 3000 words. The whole process felt a lot like riding a bicycle. Now, I’m in the process of editing and revising the story. Overall, I’m feeling pretty good about it and I hope I’ll have some news about it soon.

So, the keys for me were that even though I had taken a brief hiatus from writing new fiction, I had not given up writing altogether. I had kept a routine. I also had kept a reading routine, which kept my imagination stimulated. When I chose to sit down and write some new fiction, I started with a character I wanted to know, which propelled me through the writing and I gave myself permission to spend uninterrupted time with that character so they could speak to me. If you take a break from writing, you may find a whole different process will help you get into the groove, but maybe some of these experiences will help.

This weekend, I am at El Paso Comic Con. I have two panels today where I discuss writing. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll come to the con, sit in on one or both panels and visit me at my booth in the vendor’s area. You can learn more about Daniel the vampire astronomer in Vampires of the Scarlet Order. More information at: http://davidleesummers.com/VSO.html

10 comments on “Finding the Groove Again

  1. Willow Croft says:

    Hope you’re enjoying the con!

    • Thanks! The first two days were pretty awesome!

      • Willow Croft says:

        Can’t wait to hear more about it!

      • The short form is that we had robust sales and good attendance at all three panels. We found some interesting-looking comics, some cool hand-crafted stuff, and I got to stand next to William Shatner for about 10 seconds. Once my brain sorts things out, I may write a longer form post. In the meantime, tomorrow I’ll be talking about a cool book I read and Saturday I have a post about the first Star Trek pilot in anticipation of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

  2. “’Write every day’ is a common mantra you’ll hear from writers.” And one that doesn’t work for everybody.

    For some of us, trying to do something every day can get us stuck in a rut. When I was working typically Monday through Friday as a journalist, I not only didn’t write anything journalistic (or much of anything else) on the weekend, I wouldn’t even check the news. Typically, the only part of a newspaper I would read on the weekend was the Sunday funnies. Then, on Monday, I was energized, read the weekend news, and was ready to get to work.

    “I find walks provide a great opportunity to clear my head and I am often able to put my research together with my character and come up with a story.” It took me a while to get that physical activity is good for the brain. I find that after doing physical activity outside, I’m usually energized and ready to write!

    • Thanks for your thoughts. I agree it’s important for people to find the work pattern that works them in their chosen profession. I’m less about “writing every day” and more about “writing frequently.” For me, I was in danger of writing infrequently enough that it made writing feel harder than it should. The process of just sitting down and writing convinced me that it was all a case of my brain fooling itself.

      It was the same for me with physical activity. It took a long time to realize that it was one tool that could really help me.

  3. karenbalch says:

    Great post with on-point insights, David! I stopped stressing about writing every day; mostly because I am constantly writing and editing in my day job, often finding myself at the end of the day curling up with a book, or studying film, to unwind instead of being a wordsmith on my (numerous) writing projects. Other times, tweaking outlines and character arcs aren’t overwhelming tasks, keeping the story fresh. One important lesson I have learned when I am able to sit down and write is keeping my phone in a different room.

  4. I’m like you, try to get my butt in seat every day even when I don’t turn out lots of new words. It just keeps my brain ready for when the word dam breaks.

    • Indeed. I think the important part is not to beat oneself up about it when new words don’t flow. Develop enough good habits and you give the brain a chance to create when it’s ready.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.